Holy Smoke by Cam Jace Storykiller
Copyright©by Cameron Jace 2019
Bodleian Library, Oxford University, London
Time: 9:00 PM Mood: Thunder & Lightning
The ninety-year-old librarian reminded me of the Queen of England, only poorer.
Regret had cracked through her face, so much that a halloween mask would have done her justice. Her white hair stood stiff, so much you would mistake it for a wig. Whenever she smiled, she conjured crowfeet and wrinkles to her facade. She wore glasses thick enough for scuba diving, and of course, she didn’t like me at at all.
But I liked her.
She possessed something I was never going to experience: growing old.
“Professor Carter,” she leaned back in her chair behind the desk, a pout of disdain crumbling her face further.
“Mrs. Bookworm,” I nodded with little interest, eyes fixated on the vastly, dim-lit hall of the library.
“Woodthorn,” she corrected me. I was done with complicated names. What happened to Jack, Jill, John and Jane? “How may I help you today?” her eyes humiliated my existence from top to bottom.
“I came here to read,” I said, watching some of my students, silent and bored, flipping though books with not enough pictures. “And chew bubblegum.”
“Excuse me—” she choked mid-sentence, leaning forward, hands on the table. “Did you say bubblegum?”
I faced her in silence and showed her my cane. It glowed in a fiery color. Bubblegum was code for ‘demons in the library.’ I had fought some demons in her presence before, and my hookah glowed when the malevolent mischiefs came nearby.
Mrs. Bookworm may have hated me, but only I could save her checkout from this life.
“I understand,” she took a deep breath. “Should I get the students out?”
“That’ll be my pleasure,” I said, strolling into the library.
I stopped by Garret Gloom, my pessimistic student, reading Paradise Lost by John Milton.
The boy was a hopeless case, but he was in possession of something I needed at the moment: a Boombox with a cassette player, which he carried along, listening to news on the radio in case the end of the world started. He wasn’t allowed to play it in the library, of course.
“I’ll take that,” I whispered in his ears. “Now I want you to stand up and scream at your fellow students and tell them it’s the end of the world and they have to leave the library now—including the couple making out in the corner in the dark.”
Garret’s eyes bulged. “It is true? The end of days?”
“What difference does it make? If not today, then tomorrow.”
Garret began shouting, promising thunder and doom to the students who began panicking and leaving the library.
The students lazily turned their necks, not phased, not the least. To them, Garret was nothing but the boy who cried wolf.
“You can do better,” I whispered in his ears, “One more time, with feeling.”
This is when Garret went bonkers, and the students responded. Too many horror movies had numbed a whole generation. Garret needed to almost have a heart attack to get them going, though I'm not quite sure they believed. Annoyed, most probably.
“Good job,” I showed him out and tipped my hat at the screaming students. Girls loved to scream at that age, I never understood why.
I closed the door behind them and locked it from inside. When in hell, go all the way.
My watched ticked 9 pm. Five minutes until showdown.
I took off my jacket, rubbed off imaginary dust and folded it neatly on the table beside me. I stood straight up and pulled my sleeves back, staring at the massive space of the Bodleian Library. It was going to be a shame if I needed to damage this place. Books, though full of lies, still gave me hope somehow.
My cane glowed stronger now. I tapped its side twice with my middle finger and watched it shape-shift into my favorite demon-killing hookah with a whip for a hose.
I tapped my foot in silence and until the Tom Tower announced the time. 9:05pm. Five minutes was all I had–and yes, I could hear the ringing inside the library.
“Come on,” my voice echoed, talking to my insensible enemy. “Father Mathews bookmark led me here. Five minutes is all we have. You know what I want.”
Books began rattling on the shelves and swirls of chilling wind showed up before me. I had seen those little cyclones before. Soon a stargate to another world would open, and the demon would attack.
Thirty seconds and no one showed up. Nothing but demonic foreplay and cheap b-movies atmosphere. I knew I had to provoke my enemies, so I switched on the radio player. It played a song called Bad by Michael Jackson. If the demons where the kind I had in mind, they were going to hate it and attack me out of provocation.
The song blasted out in the library, books fell off the shelves, and the ground shook as an opening of thunder and lightning holed through the air before me.
My knuckles whitened around my hookah and I whipped my hose once in the air, “Show me yours, I'll show you mine!”
Swirls of smoke cycled all around me and books fluttered open and turned into flying ravens attacking me in every directions.
Not a bad start, but too much foreplay made the cock grow fonder.
I whipped them off the raven, slithering out their wings, which were only pages, watching the first demon manifest from within the gate of the light.
And here it came, swooshing out of the circle, waving some kind of feathery sword at me. It was a little older than I’d expected. But it was a viscous demon, for I knew its name, and I have dreamed of fighting it for so many years.
The demon’s name was William mothefuckin’ Shakespeare.